Faculty & Staff

Dr. Darden Purcell

Director of Jazz Studies | Jazz Voice

Assistant Professor of Music

  • Applied Jazz Voice
  • Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble
  • Jazz & Blues in America
  • Jazz Pedagogy


  • B.F.A. Jazz Performance, Virginia Polytechnic and State University
  • M.M. Jazz Performance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • D.M.A. Jazz Performance, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Darden Purcell is a Washington D.C. based vocalist.  A multi-faceted musician, Ms. Purcell is an active featured soloist with symphony orchestras, big bands and small ensembles, band leader and vocal instructor. Ms. Purcell has collaborated with many of the world’s top jazz artists including Eric Alexander, Chip McNeill, Jim Pugh, Chuchito Valdes, Stockton Helbing, Dana Hall, Don Heitler, Glenn Wilson, Chip Stephens, Jeff Helgesen, Joel Spencer, Darmon Meader, Chris Vadala, Jim Carroll, Kenny Rittenhouse, Shawn Purcell, Steve Fidyk, Dave Detwiler, Joe McCarthy, Wade Beach, Harold Summey, Tom Lagana, Tom Baldwin, Dominic Smith, the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, the Airmen of Note, Naval Academy Next Wave and the American Festival Pops Orchestra (under maestro Tony Maiello). She has performed at concert halls and clubs throughout the nation, including Blues Alley (Washington D.C.), Pops for Champagne (Chicago), The Jazz Kitchen (Indianapolis), The Blue Wisp (Cincinnati), The Sandler Center (Virginia Beach), The Meyerhof Center (Baltimore), Wolf Trap with the National Symphony Orchestra (back up vocals for Ben Folds) and The Kennedy Center (back-ups for Mr. George Benson).  Dr. Purcell is the Director of Jazz Studies, Jazz Voice instructor at George Mason University.

Ms. Purcell is a former Washington D.C. Air Force vocalist performing with the groups High Flight and the Airmen of Note, where she performed nationally and internationally (Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates).  As part of the USAF Band Guest Artist series, Purcell performed back-up vocals for nationally renowned recording artists Chaka Khan, Bryan White, Janie Frickie, Freda Payne, Sheri Payne, Gloria Loring, Melba Moore and Rita Coolidge as well as gospel star BeBe Winans and Lari White for “Operation Desert Greetings.” A highlight was performing in a “Salute to the Troops” tribute behind Darlene Love on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

In addition to her active performing schedule, Dr. Purcell is a sought-after jazz vocal educator and clinician.  For three years, Dr. Purcell was the jazz voice instructor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and founder/director of the University of Illinois Jazz Vocal Ensemble. She is now the founder/director of the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble.  Her groups have been invited to perform at the New York Voices Jazz Festival (Chicago), Western Michigan’s Gold Company Jazz Vocal Invitational (Kalamazoo, MI), the 2012 Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference (Louisville, KY) and the Kansas City Jazz Summit (Kansas City, MO).  Dr. Purcell has served on the faculty of the Nashville based W.O. Smith School summer camp, Illinois Summer Youth Music, George Mason Summer Jazz Workshop and National Jazz Workshop.  Her students have won “Outstanding Soloist Awards” and “Outstanding Musicianship” awards at collegiate festivals as well as Downbeat Student Music Awards. Spring 2016, the Mason Jazz Vocal Ensemble was one of two groups honored with “Outstanding Ensemble” at the Kansas City Jazz Summit.

Dr. Purcell received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Jazz Performance from Virginia Tech, a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Jazz Performance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Purcell’s debut CD, Easy Living, released on Dallas based record label, Armored Records was produced and features Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Chip McNeill, Shawn Purcell (guitar), Chip Stephens (piano), Dennis Carroll (bass) and Stockton Helbing (drums).  Easy Living can be purchased from Amazon, CDBaby and iTunes.  Stay tuned for details on Darden’s second CD, scheduled for release, November 2016.

Contact Dr. Purcell:  dpurcel2@gmu.edu
Visit Darden Purcell online:  www.dardenpurcell.com